FOREIGN AGENTSMaryland Think Tank Co-Director Charged for Acting as an Agent for China, Iran

Published 11 July 2023

Gal Luft, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, allegedly evaded FARA registration while working to advance the interests of China in the United States and seeking to broker the illicit sales of Chinese-manufactured weapons to several countries, and the sale of Iranian oil to China.

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Matthew G. Olsen, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and Christie M. Curtis, the Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced Monday the unsealing of an eight-count Indictment charging Gal Luft with offenses related to willfully failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”), arms trafficking, Iranian sanctions violations, and making false statements to federal agents.  Luft, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, was indicted on 1 November 2022, and arrested on 17 February 2023, in the Republic of Cyprus based on the charges in the Indictment.

Luft subsequently fled after being released on bail while extradition proceedings were pending and remains a fugitive.

FBI Acting Assistant Director in Charge Christie M. Curtis said: “As alleged, the defendant engaged in multiple schemes to evade sanctions and laws intended to protect our national security.   The FBI is determined to defend our nation by enforcing laws designed to promote transparency of foreign influence within the United States.”

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment, other filings, public information, and statements made during court proceedings:

For years, Luft, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen who serves as the co-director of a Maryland-based think tank, engaged, along with others, in multiple international criminal schemes. 

First, Luft conspired with others in an effort to act within the United States to advance the interests of the People’s Republic of China as agents of China-based principals, without registering as foreign agents as required under U.S. law.  As part of this scheme, while serving as the co-director of a Maryland-based non-profit think tank, Luft agreed to covertly recruit and pay, on behalf of principals based in China, a former high-ranking U.S. government official (“Individual-1”), including in 2016 while the former official was an adviser to the then-president-elect, to publicly support certain policies with respect to China without Luft or Individual-1 filing a registration statement as an agent of a foreign principal with the Attorney General of the United States, in violation of FARA